A Letter to High School Swimmers who “Aren’t Good Enough” to Swim in College

Courtesy of Dan Kelly, SwimSwam Intern. Follow: @DanKelso3 

Dear Fellow Doubters,

I remember the feeling. I know the struggle, the fear of failure, and the resulting apathy. I understand how tiresome it can be to continuously set alarms for 5:30 AM, and looking back, the fear of having to do it for another four years is still all too real to me. You see, as a high school swimmer, I fell into the trap. My team was tangled in a netting of complaints, negativity, and indifference. Deep down we all loved the sport, but when success is measured so harshly and accurately by a stopwatch, we were quick to mask our own discouragement with an apathetic attitude.

I vividly remember lounging in front of the TV senior year as my older sister (a softball player for Saint Louis University) interrogated me about my decision not to look for a college swim program. “Erin, I’m not good enough, and I don’t even like swimming.” She glared right through my protective cloak of carelessness and continued to pester me. I had to back up my claims to get her off my back, “Erin look at the NCAA 50-yard free times, almost all of the top 100 sprinters go 19 point. I have not even broken 22 seconds.” Before I even had the chance to list my other excuses, she had Boston College Swimming’s website open and in front of me. As she forced me to read about the team, she explained the camaraderie, enthusiasm, and competitive nature of college teams. She begged me to just try emailing coaches. “Swim for one year and quit if you don’t like it.”

Turns out, after just one week of swimming for Boston College, I climbed out of my bottomless pit of apathy, and boy did it show on that suddenly not-so-harsh stopwatch. You can imagine the amount of credit my sister cashed in when I qualified for Olympic Trials in the 50-meter freestyle this past summer.

So think of me as an older, wiser, unrelenting sibling of yours: I can see right through your transparent veil of indifference. If you didn’t care enough about swimming to try it in college, you would not have set that 5:30 AM alarm this morning… or last morning… or the hundreds of mornings before that. Something kept you going, and that same something is going to launch you toward success when you inevitably find a college program that you care about. So go out there, research college swim programs, and just try it “for one year.”


A high school swimmer who “wasn’t good enough” to swim in college

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up” – Thomas Edison

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
7 years ago

This is great. As a senior in high school my season just ended which stinks. I’ve dealt with injuries for the past tree years so haven’t been able to give it my all in the pool and now that college is coming up don’t think I could even at my D III school. Maybe though! Awesome article

7 years ago

NCAA is not the only game in town. There are many NAIA schools that have swim teams and offer scholarship money for swimming. NCAA is not for everyone.

8 years ago

Take it from someone who started late, there are programs out there if you really want to do it. Sure the big programs get the big guns but the little school experience may be just what you are looking for. Sure it’s not the bright lights and glory but at many of these schools it’s about competing AND being a student preparing for your career. The little schools can have a lot more to offer in ways that the big schools can’t. Don’t think that the only way to swim in college is the big schools.

8 years ago

If only you went to SLU too. Go Billikens!

8 years ago

It took me a gap year and 2 years in junior college but I made it the D1 level. At a top 10 program no less. Don’t quit on yourself you never know how good you can be.

Patriot Swimming
8 years ago

i have coached at all levels. Whether it was age gorup, high school, NCAA Division 1, D3 and now at a small NAIA school. There is a home for everyone. My current team is full of “not fast enough” kids! You can be successful at any level and the measuring stick should never be just D1. This was a great article showing swimmers that everyone has a place to learn and grow as an athlete.

8 years ago

Great story. My daughter just finished her 11th grade year. For 3 years, she has not made the cut to represent the team at sectionals, 5th fastest and 4 go. Of course, her times would have gotten her to districts, and would have been top 16 there. Even so, she’s gotten contact from 12 DIII, 2 DII and even a small DI, this without any real attempt to be recruited. Sure, we post times on a couple sites, but we haven’t paid for any services.

If you want to swim, there is a college out there for you.

8 years ago

Love the artical to those that others that don’t believe. But God has something. More that he put in you.

About Dan Kelly

Dan Kelly

Dan Kelly Dan Kelly (known simply as "DK" by his teammates), is a Senior at Boston College studying communication and marketing. As an avid swimmer since the age of four, Dan has competed in a many events but has since focused solely on sprint freestyle claiming he has "retired any race longer than …

Read More »